way out on the circumference of a great circle

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narajan

Senior Member
persian
Hello
I can't make out what does Saul bellow mean by "way out on the circumference of a great circle" in the following sentences at Henderson the Rain King. Can anybody help me? Wariri is An African tribe and the narrator is visiting Africa. Thank you.

The yells of the Wariri, even the deep drums, came very lightly to my hearing. They occurred on a small, infinitely reduced scale, way out on the circumference of a great circle.
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    Some background: A 'great circle' is a circle round the centre of the Earth, so that it divides the Earth into two halves. The shortest distance between two points on the Earth is along (the circumference of) a great circle. If you draw an aeroplane's path from New York to London, for example, on a flat map, it appears to curve up towards Greenland. On a flat map, a straight line is the shortest distance, but on the curved Earth, a great circle is shorter.

    Now, 'great circle' is a fairly well-known term. It's a circle or route around the Earth. Bellow is using this somehow, but I don't think he means anything precise by it: it's just a long way away, far out across the Earth, something like that.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    And there was me thinking it just meant 'a big circle': the narrator's standing at a certain point and the drums appear to be placed in a circle round him, but at a great distance, on its circumference.
     

    Giordano Bruno

    Senior Member
    English, England
    I'm with ewie. I know that "great circle" is quite a common term and my first reaction was to take this meaning so there is some ambiguity in my mind, but it seems to me more likely that the listener is on the periphery of a circle sufficiently large that the sound has become faint at that distance from the source.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    I also agree with ewie. eb is correct about the definition of a great circle, but I think Bellow is just using great to mean very large, here.
     

    narajan

    Senior Member
    persian
    Many Thanks all of you. I think Ewie is right. because the listener is in an arena like an stadium with people watching him.
     
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